Rockery Reveries are compositions juxtaposing verse and photos that give condensed expression to lines of contemplative reflection spurred during sustained encounters with stones, informed by a poetics that explores and intertwines abstract-conceptual and literal-material semantic registers through evocative wordplay and self-reflexiveness. Rockery Reveries balance unity of meaning and multiplicity of echoes and associations by drawing on poetic traditions including haiku, imagism/vorticism, and concrete poetry.
Rock gardening is Pierre Jardin’s spiritual exercise regimen, and he contemplates stones in many ways (looking at, touching, placing them; thinking about them; balancing them in stacks). Reverie is a specific contemplative state that emerges when sentience is suspended; the mind is slowed by the stone it lingers on to the point of being stupefied. Reverie enables mind and matter to merge and resonate; images and ideas are not consciously thought but intuitively discerned on an imaginal or spiritual plane. Reverie is stoned thinking: the mind affected by and attuned to stone as vital energy, telluric forces, planetary presence.
Similarly, Rockery Reveries are compositions where rocks and writing mutually affect one another. This semiotics reads stones as forms of earth-writing, and foregrounds the materiality of language. Words are set like stones in the visual space with a down-to-earth literalness, foregrounding their physical-perceptual properties. Stylistic characteristics include self-reference and performative elements such as indexicals, as well as puns, allusions, and swerving familiar phrases off-course.
Rockery Reveries pay playful tribute to the Chinese literati tradition of painting prized stones and writing poems about them. Wang Yemei, for instance, compiled paintings and poems of 65 scholar stones in Yemei Shipu (Yemei Stone Catalogue, published 1692 or before). Informed by Taoist philosophy and aesthetics, scholars contemplated stones as embodiments of ch’i, the vital energy of the world, and sought to replicate the singular ch’i of exceptional stones in ink paintings and poems. The 17th century Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting insists that: “To depict rocks with ch’i, it must be sought beyond the material and in the intangible. Nothing is more difficult. If the form of the rock is not clear in one’s heart(-mind) and therefore at one’s finger tips, … the picture can never be completely realized.”
Rockery Reveries result from combining a Taoist meditative mindset with an active speculative imagination in the tradition running from Stoic thought-exercises through the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. They do not focus on the spirit and energy of individual stones, but on the forces and spiritual resonances of stone more generally. Rockery Reveries are usually inspired by a configuration of rocks rather than single stones. “Rocks are not like stones or trees: once gathered, they gain a new lease on life” (Ji Cheng, Craft of Gardens). They augment the austerity of Chinese literati stone veneration with a self-conscious, ludic poetics. Rockery Reveries are designed to surprise and amuse viewers, while also grounding thought and language in the deep time of the earth.